Iconic Cinematographer Haskell Wexler Dies

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Two-time Academy Award-winning cinematographer Haskell Wexler passed away in his sleep on Sunday. He was best known for working on “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and “Bound For Glory,” motion pictures for which he was awarded Oscars.

He was a liberal activist to the core and was greatly inspired by documentaries on war and politics, despite the fact that big-budget films were the ones to bring him success. According to his son Jeff Wexler, his greatest passion was much more than simply making movies. His real passion was for justice, peace, and humanity.

Just four years ago, Wexler was a regular visitor to the Occupy L.A. encampment at City Hall. In his own words, he was drawn both to the cause of the political theater and economic justice and couldn’t help but feel a certain kinship with the protesters, despite his comfortable lifestyle as a successful cinematographer.

Wexler was one of the few cinematographers to have received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, back in 1996. He was awarded his first Oscar for photography on “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” by Mike Nichols, starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. He then went on to win another Oscar for “Bound For Glory” by Hal Ashby. Wexler received Oscar nominations for “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Matewan” and “Blaze.”

He tried his own chances at directing a picture in 1985, and the feature film “Latino” was born, a war drama shot in Nicaragua that was later described as “an indictment of U.S. involvement in Nicaragua made under conditions of real danger” by movie critic Michael Wilmington.

He became the first cameraman to receive the American Society of Cinematographer’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 1993. He was also named one of the 10 most influential cinematographers in movie history.

When asked to describe his work in an interview that very same year, Wexler claimed that movies are a “voyeuristic” experience and that the whole point is to make the audience feel like they’re peeking through a keyhole. Because of this, he often shared his frustrations about how movies were made, which is why he was fired from “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” halfway through the shooting.

An influential figure in the film business, Wexler’s passion and innovative methods will be remembered by those he influenced during his career. Rest in peace, Haskell.

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